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Fang Ngil mask

Fang Ngil mask
Fang Ngil maskFang Ngil maskFang Ngil maskFang Ngil mask
Tribe: Fang
Country: Gabon
Ritual: Judiciary
Name: Ngil
Materials: Wood, pigment
Provenance: Coll. Andrew Turley, SuagaCollection 2003.
Comments: This mask is either from the same village/workshop or a carefully and beautifully crafted copy of the Ngil mask in the Musee Barbier Mueller Musee, Geneva.

The white faced Ngil masks of the Fang, a people of Equatorial Guinea, northwest Gabon and South Cameroon, represent a masquerading tradition that waned over sixty years ago. They were worn by members of the male society of the same name during the initiation of new members and the persecution of wrong doers. Masqueraders clad in raffia costumes and attended by helpers would materialise in the village after dark, illuminated by torchlight.

The mask represents a horrific being whose role is to eradicate evil. It brought punishment to adulterers, thieves, debtors, poisoners and those disrespectful in their dealings with society members. French colonial officers banned Ngil in 1910.

The mask is very close to an example in the Barbier Mueller Collection with an elongated head and heart shaped concave face characteristic of the type. Three incised lines lead from the point of the long nose, over its flattened bridge and the round forehead to the saggital comb, a typical stylistic feature of southern Fang masks.

There is through and through insect damage on the mask as well as overlying the pokerwork ornamentation on the temples and side of the head. This and the ornamentation below the eyes represents certain tattoo patterns observed by Gunter Tesman among the Ntumu and Mvai groups of the Fang.

The typical face painting with white kaolin invoking the power of the ancestors, indicates that the mask was intended to embody spirits of the deceased. The word Ngil means "gorilla" and masks shared the size and features of the forest creatures.


  1. A History of African Art, Harry. N. Abrams Inc Publisher NY 2001.
  2. African Masks of the Barbier Mueller Collection. Prestel Verlag Munich. 1998.
  3. The Tribal Arts of Africa, J.B. Bacquart. 1998.
  4. African Sculpture Speaks. Ladislas Segy.1975.